Fighting festive stress and conflict

The festive season is often a peak time for stress, strained relationships and spending. But a bit of planning goes a long way in boosting holiday harmony. Do you feel like you're on an unstoppable express train to the end of December? There's relentless Christmas shopping, a tendency to overindulge in alcohol, and the looming get together with relatives who don't necessarily get on with each other. It's a pressure cooker time of year, acknowledges Kylie Dunjey, a West Australia-based counsellor and spokeswoman for Relationships Australia. But taking some time out to think and plan ahead could help take some of the stress out of the holiday season, Dunjey says. Be realistic Ask yourself honesty, 'what am I expecting of the festive period and is it actually realistic?' she advises. "There's a little perfectionist in all of us when it comes to special events. The fact of the matter is: it won't be perfect and we have to deal with it." Also know you won't please everyone. "Try not to buy into this myth that we can actually make everyone happy," Dunjey says. "Often behind our stress there's a core belief that is really unhelpful and just not possible." If there is conflict among family members, you may have to accept it and plan to manage it, rather than expect or hope to change it during the pre-holiday madness. "We often get a rush of [counselling] appointments at this time of year. People think 'I've got to get this sorted'. But often things get a bit messy before they get better. What optimises change is having more energy. Do...
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